Notebooking makes learning stick. Here’s how to add it to your homeschool.

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If you want to bring your kids’ education to life while still having time to take care of your other responsibilities, you need to make sure that everything you do during your homeschooling time gives you results, not just fills up your time.  You want every activity, every lesson you teach, and every book your kids read, to have some impact.  One way to help make that happen is through notebooking.

You’ve heard of worksheets, right? Worksheets are pages children fill out in a specified way to repetitively practice a task. They are often used to practice grammar or writing skills. They are everywhere. And they’re easy — just hand them to your kids and go get something else done.

But I see them mostly as busywork.  And with my kids, at least, the information they were supposed to be learning with worksheets did not stick.  My kids could do worksheets all day long and then promptly forget what they had just “learned.”

In contrast to worksheets, notebooking is an organized way to store information, artwork, copywork,  student’s thoughts, timelines, drawings, and more on one topic.  A notebook ends up being something between a scrapbook and a journal, especially if your child is enjoying learning about something.  And while worksheets have no outlet or place for a student to add his thoughts or display his creativity, notebooking is perfect for both.


What exactly is notebooking, you ask?

Think of a notebook as an educational scrapbook.  A three-ringed binder works well for this.  And you can take almost any subject and turn it into an opportunity to notebook.

Your kids can make notebooks about anything:

  • United States Presidents or your country’s government
  • A country or continent, such as Japan or Africa
  • Insects, horses, magnetism or Creation Science
  • Any people group, such as the Ancient Greeks or the Maori
  • A meaty book, such as Les Miserables
  • the history of guitar
  • plant-based eating and its benefits

Are you starting to see how applicable notebooking might be in your homeschool?

For example, let’s say you’re studying Colonial American History.  Your student could create a notebook and include almost anything pertaining to that time period, especially if you are using a literature-based homeschool curriculum, such as our Unit Program Tools.

Homeschooled student illustrating something for his notebook

Your Child’s Early American history notebooking might include…

  • reading notes or narrations from excellent literature  about this time period, such as Eric Sloane’s Diary of an Early American Boy
  • Notebooking pages on important people during Colonial America, such as William Bradford, Anne Bradstreet, John Rolfe, Pochahontas, John Winthrop, and William Penn.
  • Drawings of what people wore, what their houses and churches looked like, what crops they grew, what toys they played with as children
  • Research on the first Thanksgiving, with recipes,  plans, and notes about recreating this feast. (And pictures afterward!)
  • Lists of books read and books to be read about this ti
  • Vocabulary lists
  • An illustrated timeline
  • Map of the original Thirteen Colonies
  • Reports, essays,  and pictures of any projects

Have your kids make their notebooks their own

And as this notebook grows, encourage your students and give them time to add other items that they come up with to their notebook. Perhaps you have a child that is interested in woodworking. Find a pattern and have this child build a replica of a simple object that might have been used in Colonial America.  Have her draw a picture of what she is building at different stages and record how it is put together, along with pictures of the final outcome.

And the more your child adds to his notebook, the more special it will become to him, especially if he includes his thoughts and reactions to what he has learned.  In fact, an assignment idea for the Colonial period notebook might be for your child to pretend he traveled on the Mayflower and write a letter to his best friend back in England to describe the trip.

And remember, the more your students emotionally engage with what they are learning the more their earning will STICK.

History of Notebooking

Although you might think of notebooking as kind of a “new” thing, people have been keeping notebooks for hundreds of years.  In fact, Leonardo da Vinci used his famous notebooks for writing and drawing everything from the anatomy of the cadavers he studied and machinery he invented to lists of the clothes he owned. Interestingly, he also wrote in his notebooks from right to left instead of the traditional left to right.  Others over the centuries carried what were commonly called “pocket notebooks” to jot down their ideas and observations.

Lewis and Clark kept notebooks of the native people they met and maps of rivers and mountains, sketched animals and plants they had never seen before as they explored the Louisiana Purchase.  As they finished each notebook, they sealed it up and sent it to President Thomas Jefferson, who also kept a notebook. President Jefferson, upon getting up in the morning, recorded the rain, wind speed, and temperature, along with details of various flora and fauna he encountered.

Other famous notebook-keepers included Pablo Picasso, Ludwig van Beethoven, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein.

Notebooking works with any homeschooling method

 Just like for the many generations of notebook keepers in years past, notebooking is a very natural and creative way for students to record what they have learned.  You can use it for almost any subject and with any homeschooling philosophy:  Charlotte Mason, Classical, the Principle Approach, and even Unschooling.


children creating maps for notebook

Using already-made notebook pages or creating your own

If you’re new at this, you’ll want to get some already-made notebook pages to start with.  These are pages with lines and illustrations that can help “prompt” your child to get started writing. (There’s nothing more intimidating to a kid than staring at a blank white page. )
And studying history chronologically really lends itself to notebooking.  Did we use them all the time? No, but with all of the available pages from my friend Debra at Productive Homeschooling, there are pages on any topic you can imagine. If you want to try them out for free,  you can click the graphic below and gain access to many.
Free Homeschool Resources (Notebooking Pages & More!)


Would it help you to have some free notebooking pages to start you off creating notebooks in your homeschool? Click on the graphic above and see how many you can get with a free membership.

Happy Notebooking!
notebooking pages


P.S. Just to let you know the links to Productive Homeschooling are affiliate links. This means if you purchase anything through one of these links, I might make a small commission, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used and loved.

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